Giants President and Chief Executive Officer John K. Mara addresses the media following Wednesday's practice
Opening Statement:I'm not going to make any statements. Let's just get ahead with the questions.
Q: How on board were you with this decision and how involved were you?
A: I had had a conversation with Jerry (Reese) a week or two ago about – and I normally don't speak to the coach directly about which players are playing and which players are not playing. I'll have the conversation with Jerry. I mentioned to him a week or two ago – 'don't you think it's time that we start to get a look at these other quarterbacks at some point during the games' and he agreed. Said he had already had a conversation with Ben (McAdoo) about that. Jerry called me on Monday afternoon, I was at a family function in Virginia, to tell me that Ben was going to be speaking to Eli to let him know that he was going to continue to start the game. He's going to start the game on Sunday, but that at some point Geno (Smith) would come into the game. Tuesday morning, Jerry called me and said that Eli had informed Ben that 'if you're going to play Geno in the second half, you may as well just start him. It's not fair to him. It's not fair to me and I think that would be the best decision going forward.' And, he also wanted us to put out a statement announcing that. So, that's what we did.
Q: Are you taken aback by the uproar that followed?
A: Yes and no. Yes and no. I mean, I expected there to be an emotional reaction from fans. I would say it's been a little excessive maybe than what I expected. But given what he has meant to our franchise and to so many people for so long, it's understandable.
Q: Do you think some of that excess reaction is because it's from Eli Manning to Geno Smith instead of Eli to Davis Webb?
A: That may be true with a few people, but I think for the most part – I think it would have been that reaction with Eli to anybody.
Q: Are you viewing this as the end of Eli?
A: No. I'm not. I don't think we should be writing his obituary just yet. A lot of things can change between now and next spring and next season and the reality is we have some tough decisions to make at the end of the year and who knows what's going to happen.
Q: Have you talked to Eli?
A: Yes. I met with him this morning and had a good talk with him. It was a very emotional talk and he is obviously not happy with the decision, but he understands it and I told him – I said, my hope here had been that you were going to continue to play, not only to keep your streak alive, but because I was hoping – I didn't want him to go out like this. But, I understand. I understand his feeling. I respect his decision. He doesn't want the streak to be tarnished by just getting in for a few series or something. But, I was hoping that he'd come in, he'd play, he'd be playing well, we'd have a chance to win the game and maybe stay in there or something. But, he understands that at some point we have to look at the other quarterbacks because he's not going to play forever.
Q: Do you think your talk with Jerry Reese got the momentum started?
A: No. I think he had already been thinking about that and had been thinking about that for a few weeks anyway. That was my impression.
Q: Since you've been so close with Eli Manning for so long, there has been speculation that you weren't on board with this, but it seems like the complete opposite.
A: That's not true – again, I was hoping it would turn out a little differently, that he would continue to play some portion of the games, but at some point we would work in the other quarterbacks. But, you know, he didn't want to do it that way and I understand that and I respect him so much and I'm not going to argue with him on that.
Q: Was the talk with Eli Manning today emotional for you, too?
A: Both of us.
Q: Your dad and this franchise have been very close to Eli Manning. Does that weigh on you on a day like this?
A: It does. It does. I mean, he's a special – not only a special player but a special person and when you see him get that emotional, it's tough. The thing about him is, you know, to a lot of players this is just another team and another franchise, but to him it means something to be a New York Giant and that's what makes this so much tougher.
Q: Do you think he will waive his no-trade clause?
A: I have no idea. We didn't discuss that. We didn't discuss it. We don't know what's going to happen at the end of the season or next year.
Q: He didn't express to you a desire to play somewhere else?
Q: What do you say to fans that are saying you mishandled the situation and that you're embarrassing him and not treating him appropriately?
A: I understand they feel that way, but I've been around long enough to know that when you get to a decision like this, there's no completely clean way to handle it. And, again, it was not the way we hoped it would turn out. I was hoping that he would continue to play and then we'd work out at what point the other quarterbacks go into the game. It just didn't work out that way and once I heard that, I knew what was coming.
Q: How much do you want to see the other quarterbacks to get a handle on if you need to take a quarterback?
A: I don't know if this is going to give us all the information we need, but it's going to be better than nothing. It's better than just watching them run scout team out there every day. With quarterbacks in particular, you don't know what you have until they're out there facing a pass rush, making decisions at critical points in the game and making plays. So we want to get whatever information we can, but obviously we're going to have a high draft pick this year and there are going to be some quarterbacks available. So that's going to be a decision that we're going to have to make, but I'd like to make that decision at least having watched some of these guys play.
Q: Is it fair to say that Davis Webb isn't ready, so Geno Smith is sort of the bridge to Davis?
A: Well, let's see what happens. I mean, Geno has been the number two all year long. Davis has just been running scout team. Geno has at least had some reps with the first unit and he has more experience. I think it was a natural move. I will tell you that Davis should play at some point and when that is – I don't like to interfere with those things. I'd like the coach to make that decision. But, I think he knows what our feeling is.
Q: Is there a better way to do this than yanking Eli Manning out at half?
A: There probably is. Tell me what it is. I don't know. I mean, I didn't necessarily think it had to be at the half. I think if he's playing well in the first half, we're winning the game, it looks like we've got a chance, the offense is clicking, I would argue then keep him in the game. But, having him definitively come out at the end of the first half – I can understand why he would object.
Q: Was it presented properly?
A: Well, it was presented the way that Ben thought it ought to be presented and could we have done it differently? I guess you could argue we could have. Yes. The point was we did not want him on the bench. We wanted him to start the game and play some portion of the game and at some point work the other guys in. Again, it was his decision, which I completely respect, to go with.
Q: So, it wasn't just a nominal thing to keep the streak alive?
A: No. I would not have been in favor of just playing him a series or something like that. He's got to play a meaningful part of the game, whether that was half or three quarters or whatever – that's for discussion.
Q: If there comes a situation where Eli just isn't happy with what the result is…
A: I don't want to speculate on that. I have so much respect for him that obviously I would take that into consideration, but that's a conversation for another day.
Q: Are you committing to Head Coach Ben McAdoo and General Manager Jerry Reese going forward?
A: I'm not going to address their job status. We obviously have some decisions to make in the offseason.
*Q: If you could go back and do something different with your decision making in this situation, would you? *
A: At the time, yeah, it could have been a little different. I wish I could have been here when that was all going down. But what I did not expect, and this is my fault, I was probably naïve, I did not expect Eli to react by saying, 'Go ahead and start the other guys.' And again, especially after speaking to him today, I completely understand that. But that took me by surprise a little bit and, yeah, maybe I would have handled that a little bit different.
Q: Everything you know about Manning, why do you think the plan you presented him with would have been attractive to him?
A: After talking to him today, I understand why it wasn't. He's a competitor and he wants to be out there playing, he wants to be out there trying to win and that's why he's been so successful for so many years.
Q: When Manning left your office, what were your parting words to him?
A: I just thanked him for, as always, handling this in a classy manner and thanked him for everything that he's done for us. Who knows what the future is going to bring? He can get into the game on Sunday, you just don't know. Any quarterback, any player at any position, is just one snap away from getting into the game.
Q: Did you tell Manning that you still want him to be a Giant for life?
A: I didn't tell him that in so many words, but I think he knows that. And I've said that to him before.
Q: If you were to present the idea to Manning as he will play until the game gets out of hand and then you will play Geno Smith or Davis Webb to finish it up, do you think his reaction would have been different?
A: I'm not sure, you'd have to ask him that. Again, if we're going to get a look at these quarterbacks, we have five games left to do that and you'd like them to get in for some meaningful minutes. They're not just in a mop up role with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Q: Are you acknowledging that you have decisions to make on McAdoo and Reese after the end season?
A: Well, you have decisions to make every year on people after the season.
Q: You didn't have to make a decision on McAdoo after last season, right?
A: Well, you always have decisions to make, yeah. I just saw three baseball managers get fired after making the playoffs. So, you always have those decisions to make.
Q: What have you thought of the job McAdoo has done this year?
A: We're 2-9. We're 2-9, okay? I'm embarrassed about that. Nobody's doing a good job.
Q: Is there a concern that when you take Manning out, it sends a message to the team that you are not trying to win?
A: Well, that's not the case. Again, we're 2-9. We're still going to try to win the games. I read something somewhere about, are we going to tank the rest of the season? That's complete bull----. I would never allow that here. We're going to try to win the games. We're just going to have to try to do it with a different guy at quarterback.
Q: How can you tell your fans that Geno Smith and Davis Webb give you a better chance to win than Eli Manning?
A: We'll have to find out. We're 2-9, we'll have to find out whether they give us a better chance of winning. Let them play and see.
Q: Years ago, you had a situation when Ray Handley was the head coach with Phil Simms and Jeff Hostetler as quarterbacks and he presented an idea of a platoon system. Did any of that flash back to you?
A: No, no. I block that out of my memory [laughs].
Q: Do you think Manning will be starting in the NFL next year?
A: I think so.
Q: Do you think Manning can still be successful in this league?
A: I think he can still win in the NFL, yes. And I hope it's here, but that'll be a discussion for the offseason.
Q: Would it be fair to say that if the team's record was 9-2, we wouldn't be having this conversation?
A: Yes. Absolutely it would be.
Q: Do you think that part of the reason this decision was received so poorly and emotionally by fans is because of how McAdoo presented it, both to Manning and the public?
A: I'm not sure that that makes any difference, to be honest with you. I think Eli has such respect from our fans and there's so much love and affection for him and appreciation for what he's done. I think the manner in which it was presented, I don't think it made any difference whatsoever.
Q: Could McAdoo have presented the decision more delicately, or more compassionately?
A: I suppose he could have. I don't think that's necessarily his strength, but I suppose he could have. Again, at the end of the day, does it really make any difference? The fact of the matter is it's a major decision for this franchise and with a beloved figure, people are not going to like it.
Q: When it came back to you that Manning said that he would rather have Smith or Webb play, did you pump the breaks a little bit and reconsider?
A: I did, I did have some pause, but then having talked with Jerry about it and accepted the fact that Eli had slept on it overnight and had time to think about it. He and I texted each other, I wanted to talk to him over the phone, but he preferred to do it face to face because I couldn't get here until today. So yeah, it did give me some pause, but once I realized that he had slept on it overnight and that was his decision, we went ahead with it.
Q: Were you at compensation committee meetings?
A: That and other committee meetings, yes. Yesterday and today.
Q: Is Ben McAdoo's job considered secure for the rest of the year? Have you guaranteed that to him?
A: There's no guarantees in life. (We) made (our) statement on that a couple of weeks ago, but there's no guarantees in life.
Q: Is it fair to say you've gotten a lot of feedback from fans already?
A: Yes [laughs]. It's fair to say I've gotten a lot of feedback from fans and they're not happy and I accept that.
Q: What would you say to unhappy fans?
A: I accept the fact that we're 2-9, we're completely defenseless when you have a record like that, particularly when the expectations were so high and it's up to us to fix that going forward. But one of the things that we have to do is try to find out whether one of these two guys can be a quarterback for us in the future. I don't know if we'll have an answer to that by the end of the season, but we weren't going to have an answer unless we got them in a game.
Q: Back in 1994 when Phil Simms was released, your father said something like, 'A day of overwhelming sadness'. Does this have that same feeling?
A: It's not quite the same, in the sense that Phil was being released and that's not the case here.
Q: Is this as tough a couple days that you've had as owner?
A: Yeah, I would say so. It's been a tough year, to be honest with you.